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CONTRACTS Fruit company manager wins profit-share lawsuit A general manager for a fruit packer who said he was not paid his contracted-for share of the profits was awarded $676,429 by a Florida jury on Jan. 16. James Crockett, 55, joined United Indian River Packers and was to receive 50% of the profits. Because the business grew, Crockett was asked to sign a new deal, under which he would get only 25% of the profits. Because he was still owed money under the former contract, the new one also called for Crockett to get $60,000 per year toward payments due from preceding years, and $60,000 a year against future earnings. Crockett claimed he received only promissory notes. A few years later, when the packing house had a successful year, he paid himself $115,000. When the company objected, Crockett sued. United Indian River argued that the way Crockett calculated his draw was incorrect because it was based on a profit picture that didn’t include the unproductive summer months. Crockett v. United Indian River Packers, No. 2001-0734 CA-03 (Indian River Co., Fla., Cir. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS: Charles A. Sullivan Sr., Vero Beach, Fla.; Louis Vocelle, Vero Beach DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Susan Seigle, Ruden, McClosky, Smith, Schuster & Russell, West Palm Beach, Fla. MOTOR VEHICLE Mother denied recovery in logging rig collision A young mother who steered her Toyota into the path of a logging rig on Highway 150 near New Waverly, Texas, was found entirely at fault for the resulting accident. Amber Alissa Dana, 22, claimed that she did not see the truck until it was bearing down on her, at which point she swerved to the left. Because the truck was trying to pass her, the two vehicles collided. The truck’s cab rolled onto her car, trapping her and her 4-year-old daughter for more than an hour. Dana suffered broken ribs and lacerations; the child was not hurt. The defendants, driver Emmit Lemar Eldridge, truck owner Delbert Croft and Croft Logging, contended that Dana was negligent. On Jan. 22, a state jury agreed. Dana v. Eldridge, No. 64648 (Liberty Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Brett Burlison and Wade F. Stewart, Law Offices of R. Gary Stephens, Houston; Zeb D. Zbranek, Liberty, Texas DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Todd Taylor, Johanson & Fairless, Sugar Land, Texas PREMISES LIABILITY Shopping center liable for pair killed by robbers A Florida shopping center on Jan. 5 settled a negligent security suit for the $2.2 million limit of its insurance policy. Angela and Jonadad Campos owned a jewelry store at the Opalocka-Hialeah Flea Market in Hialeah, Fla. In May 2003, three masked assailants stormed into the Camposes’ store with guns drawn, and shot and killed the couple. The assailants then stole jewelry and fled. They were never apprehended. The Camposes’ estates claimed that the shopping center knew of prior incidents of crime in the center but did nothing to increase security. The Opalocka-Hialeah Flea Market Association contended that the double murder was unlike any crimes that had occurred at the center, and that it was therefore unforeseeable and unpreventable. Estate of Campos v. Opalocka-Hialeah Flea Market Association Inc., No. 03-17402CA20 (Miami-Dade Co., Fla., Cir. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Michael A. Haggard and Alexis Izquierdo, Haggard, Parks, Haggard & Bologna, Coral Gables, Fla. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Eduardo Cosio, Coral Gables; Helen Hauser, Dittmar & Hauser, Plantation, Fla. PRODUCTS LIABILITY Jury awards child $2.6M for lawn mower accident A child who lost function and strength in his left thumb and sustained skin loss and disfigurement to his left (dominant) hand when it was caught in the air-intake screen of a lawn mower engine was awarded $2.6 million by a Florida jury on Jan. 12. The verdict was reduced as per the fault apportionment and settlement setoffs. The parents of Timothy Marcotte, 7, claimed that a $9.50 metal guard placed over the engine of the Dixie Chopper riding lawn mower, made by Kohler Co. would have covered all of the moving parts and prevented the accident. Kohler argued that it had sold more than 900,000 of its engines without any problems, that the manufacturer of the lawn mower, Magic Circle Co. (which settled before trial), was at fault for failing to install a safety guard and that the boy’s mother shouldn’t have operated the lawn mower at dusk with her young child nearby. The jury found Kohler 75% at fault and Magic Circle 25% at fault. Marcotte v. Kohler Co., No. 98-30113-CA-02 (Miami-Dade Co., Fla., Cir. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Brett A. Weinberg and Sagi Shaked, The Law Offices of Brett A. Weinberg, Coral Gables, Fla. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Ricardo J. Cata, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, Miami RESTAURANT Worker’s failure to warn of lye makes owner liable A restaurant worker who sustained chemical burns to her face when she poured hot water into a sink that had lye in it, causing it to spit back at her, was awarded $36,719 by a Texas jury on Jan. 12. Ernestine Stallworth, manager of the Community Fund Restaurant in Silsbee, Texas, sued the restaurant’s owner, Charles Holmes, claiming that he was liable for another employee’s failure to warn co-workers that he had put lye in the sink. Holmes denied that he owned the restaurant, claiming that his brother did. Stallworth’s initial attorney never sued the brother and the statute of limitations had since passed. In any event, several former employees testified that Holmes was the owner and the jury agreed. Stallworth v. Holmes, No. 38502 (Hardin Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Tom Oxford, Waldman & Smallwood, Beaumont, Texas DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Charles Holmes, pro seUNFAIR COMPETITION Consumers settle class action against Microsoft A group of consumers who indirectly purchased Microsoft software when they bought computers from companies that had preinstalled it settled a class action against Microsoft for up to $1.1 billion in vouchers. Consumers can use the vouchers to purchase computer products. The plaintiffs argued that Microsoft’s conduct denied consumers competitive prices and free choice among software products. Microsoft said that its conduct did not violate unfair competition laws and that it sold innovative software at competitive prices. A hearing in San Francisco Superior Court regarding the final approval of the deal, which was entered into on Jan. 10, will be held on March 29. Lingo v. Microsoft, No. 301357 (class actions) (San Francisco Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Eugene Crew, Daniel J. Furniss and Richard L. Grossman, Townsend and Townsend and Crew, San Francisco; Steven F. Benz, Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd & Evans, Washington; R. Steven Berry, Berry & Leftwich, Washington DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Robert A. Rosenfeld and Jessica S. Pers, Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe, San Francisco; David B. Tulchin and Michael Lacovara, Sullivan & Cromwell, New York WORKPLACE Jury assesses $2 million in punitives for accident The family of a pipefitter who bled to death when his leg was hit by a 50-pound cover plate that flew off a compressor was awarded $2 million in punitive damages on Jan. 22. Melvin Clark’s widow and adult sons claimed that a pressure relief valve was not fully open and that a catch to keep the plate from coming off had been removed at the fertilizer plant in Borger, Texas. They also argued that the plant’s mechanical integrity program did not meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. The Texas jury’s punitive award against Clark’s employer, Agrium U.S., is subject to a statutory cap that reduces it to $1.58 million. The jury also found $1.7 million in compensatory damages, but as a workers’ compensation subscriber, the company is not liable for compensatories. Clark v. Agrium U.S., No. 35,315 (Hutchinson Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Jim S. Hart and Byron Buchanan, Williams Bailey Law Firm, Houston DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Tom Morris, Underwood, Wilson, Berry, Stein & Johnson, Amarillo, Texas More information about these cases, as well as full reports on other verdicts and settlements, can be found in the VerdictSearch National Reporter or at www.VerdictSearch.com. To submit a case, call (212)313-9057, fax (212)313-9145 or use the form at www.VerdictSearch.com/submit. For subscription information or jury verdict research, call (800)832-1900.

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